Ceremony honors 12 Purple Heart recipients

Retired Army Col. Danny McKnight, accompanied by his wife, Linda, was one of 12 local Purple Heart recipients honored Aug. 8 by Chapter 453 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart during a ceremony at the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center on Merritt Island.

Indialantic resident Carl Miller’s Purple Heart medal nearly came at the cost of his life. 

In February 1969, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Miller lay face down in mud near Da Nang, Vietnam, his left arm severed. Two Marines he had shared a foxhole with moments before were dead from a mortar explosion.

A Viet Cong soldier then sprayed him with bullets, striking him twice in the left leg and once in the hip, and left him for dead.  

U.S. forces found Miller and other surviving Marines the next day. He spent the next two months hospitalized in Guam, where doctors performed multiple surgeries that saved his life and arm. Miller spent a year in a full-body cast, shriveling from 224 pounds to 92 pounds when the cast was removed.  

Miller was one of 12 local Purple Heart recipients honored Sunday (Aug. 8) by Chapter 453 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart during a ceremony at the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center at 400 S. Sykes Creek Parkway on Merritt Island. 

Other honorees were Capt. Charles Donovan, Sgt. John Erskine, Lance Cpl. Joshua Frey, Sgt. First Class Jonathan Langford, First Sgt. Mike Lomax, Sgt. Ray Lynch, Master Sgt. Adrian Marquez, Col. Danny McKnight, Sgt. Brian McGinnis, Sgt. First Class Juan Santiago and Staff Sgt. Thomas Trotter.

Attended by about 150 people, the fourth annual event had special meaning for Miller, Chapter 453’s commander.

“To see it have the success that it has is exciting because I know I’m doing something for my fellow veterans, especially my Purple Heart guys,” Miller said.

A Chapter 435 member read each honoree’s story, and some family members added personal memories. Engraved pavers with each honoree’s name were on display and will be placed around a Purple Heart monument at the veterans center. 

Created in 1782 by then-Gen. George Washington and originally called the Badge of Military Merit, the Purple Heart is awarded to U.S. military personnel wounded or killed in action. More than two million service members have been awarded the military decoration – 400,000 of them posthumously – since the medal was revived in 1932. Purple Heart Day is celebrated annually on Aug. 7.

One of Sunday’s honorees, now-retired Army Col. McKnight was commander of the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment at the battle of Mogadishu in 1993. The firefight left 19 U.S. troops dead and was the subject of the 2001 film “Black Hawk Down.” 

“Thank each and every one of you for what you’ve done and thank you for letting us be here,” said the 28-year veteran, two-time Purple Heart recipient and Rockledge resident, who was accompanied by his wife, Linda.

Chapter 453 has honored 42 Purple Heart recipients and expects to pay tribute to more heroes in the future, Miller said.

“These experiences really should be known by the public,” Miller said, “because you hear about the number of deaths recorded, but a guy gets wounded, goes home and you never hear a thing about him again. Well, we’re going to stop that. We’re going to honor our Purple Heart recipients and this is how we do it.”